One of the best portraits of the High Renaissance that would enjoy great popularity that endured for many years is the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione. His influence will be felt in the works of eminent artists such as Titian – “Portrait of a Man” (1520), Rembrandt – “Self-Portrait”, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – “Portrait of Monsieur Bertin” (1832), and Rubens and Matisse will produce copies of this painting.
The original work today is on display at the Louvre, Paris.
Baldassare is actually the author of the book “The Book of the Courtier” (Il Cortegiano), which was very popular at the time. It summarizes all the tastes, the culture of the Renaissance and gives an insight into the life and intellectual thinking at the court in Urbino.
Famous humanist, poet, thinker, one of the “beacons” of the Italian Renaissance. He and Raffaello were good friends and shared a similar view of the world and the aesthetics, as well as a joint collaboration in the archeological excavations of Roman antiquities.
This portrait is believed to have been made between 1514 and 1515 in Rome, in honor of Baldassare’s appointment as the ambassador of Urbino to the Vatican.
The portrait depicts the ideals of a noble courtier with a calm and intelligent face. He is portrayed from the waist up in three-quarter profile. The lower part o the painting was intentionally cut, one part of the sleeve is cropped, so that the attention is focused on the face and the intense gaze. The head is turned towards the viewer, the appearance is almost “en face”.
The composition of the painting is pyramidal, the position of the shoulders indicates that he is sitting in an armchair. The overall pose, together with the soft luminescence can be regarded as a discreet act of homage to Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa”.
He is dressed in elegant clothes but without any luxury, his hair is held in a turban, covered by a black beret decorated with a medallion.
He wears a simple white blouse underneath a doublet of grey squirrel fur interwoven with black ribbon. The color pallete is not too rich, the colors are white, black and gray, which expresses restraint and calm.
The shaded tones of the costume’s colour and the unusual light background that gives contrast indicate the hand of a skilled and experienced master.